Before i Forget : Simon Jones's blog

July 2005

General and TravelTuesday, July 26th, 2005, (10:55 am)

Sorry for not posting these pictures before now. I’ve been tied up with catching up. You know how that goes.

So… what a party that was! These are just a few of my pictures, although I must say I didn’t take many because I was just having too much fun chatting with people and putting names to faces. it was funny being there with labels on us showing what our xanga names were. I would have liked to have gotten to chat with more people for longer, but what can you do. Even so, as Jon, Erin and I drove home we worked out we’d been at Karen and Alberts house for something like 7 or 8 hours!

It was so kind of Karen and Albert to open their house for that party, and it was really great that so many xanga regulars turned out. The very next day after the party I jumped on a plane and headed back to England, though I truly wish I could have had more time in Houston to hang out with people and maybe see a few of the folk who couldn’t make the party for whatever reason.

I may have told a few of you at the party, but despite the fact I was not really able to get my laptop to work properly in the final week of my vacation, I was at least able to recover ALL of my pictures from the trip. including the ones from Oregon.

Anyway, it was really REALLY great to meet so many of you at the party. Thank you all for making that final night in America a real highlight of the entire trip.

TravelMonday, July 18th, 2005, (2:06 am)

Well it’s happening. The Xanga party we’ve been hoping would eventually happen is happening! (July 22nd, at 6:30pm.)

I’m still ‘on the road’ at the moment so I’m not to up on the details but Cara, Karen, Jess, Erin and others have more information on their sites. All I can tell you is that it is at Karen and Albert’s house in Houston at 6:30 this Friday the 22nd of July and it’s BYOB.

I for one am hoping to see a whole load of people. I’ve met quite a few of you briefly a couple of years back, but this ol’ Xanga thing has given me the opportunity to actually get to know a whole host of people that I didn’t really get to know very well back then, and in a lot of cases, never knew until I ‘met’ them on here.

I’m flying into Texas this Tuesday around 4:30 to spend some time with my old friend Erin, but if any of you want to hang out give her a call and see what plans there are, if any. I’m only around till Saturday!

I’ve had a great trip these last three weeks. Oregon was just great, and here in California we’ve had a blast and I’ve been enjoying the 100+ degree temperatures. This will be the first time I’ve returned to Texas in a couple of years or so, and I have to tell you all that I am really very excited at the possibility.

Unfortunately my Apple laptop died a slow and painful death in Central Valley California where the temperatures soured into the 100’s almost every day I was there. It turns out that 12″ PowerBook G4’s don’t like that very much, and at the time of writing this it would seem that I may well have lost every single picture I took In Oregon aside a few pictures from the last day I was there. This makes me really sad because I took a great deal of pictures in Portland and at the coast which I was really looking forward to printing. The loss includes every single one of the pictures posted below. This really has made me quite sad on what has otherwise been a great trip so far.

The upshot of this technical failure is that of course I have been unable to post on here, comment, instant message with people or even email, and it would seem that this may well be the case until I return to England. So you’ll have to wait to see more pictures till I get back to England.

Anyway, I am looking forward to seeing you at the party. Do we know who is going yet? Will you be there?

Photography and TravelThursday, July 14th, 2005, (3:17 pm)

Well Oregon was, as ever, great! I’m in California at the moment and have been here for a few days already, but I wanted to share a few pictures with you. I always feel very photographically inspired when I am in Oregon. In the summer its such a colorful place in more ways than one!

The pictures below are of various places and things in Oregon. They include pictures of of places in Portland and the surrounding areas as well as the coastline between Lincoln City and Newport.

Melisa McDaniel

One thing I was very pleased I got a chance to do while I was in Portland, was meet Christine, otherwise known on Xanga as ‘Crazy Woman Writer.

Christine NewkirkChristine is someone I came to know simply from my wandering around Xanga, I’d never met her before in person so I was excited about the possibility of meeting the person behind the site.

We arranged to meet for coffee at the Portland Coffee House in downtown Portland one evening and when we met it’s fair to say we both enjoyed the evening very much as we chatted and exchanged stories.

Like I said, I’m in California now and I’ve been here for a few days so I’ll post more pictures soon. In the meantime should you wish to know more about any of the pictures above then just ask.

GeneralSaturday, July 9th, 2005, (6:50 am)

It took less than a day for the BBC news website to relegate the bombings in London to an ‘also in the news’ story. Here on the west coast of America I woke up to the news of the blasts as my friends back home in the UK were starting to make their way home at the end of another working day. A day that despite the bombs and the 40 or 50 people who died, was in most ways pretty much the same as any other day.

My first reaction was of course to make sure that my friends and family who commute to London were all okay. I used AIM to ask my friend Will back in the UK to call the various people I was concerned about. As I had assumed, everyone was fine so I sat and watched some CNN for a while to see pictures of the destruction that had been wreaked across my countries capital.

As the news networks were still clamouring for dramatic pictures and good sound-bytes the people of London were, it would seem, more concerned about getting home in time for dinner on the obviously disrupted public transport system that the city is so reliant upon. It didn’t take me very long to learn all that CNN knew, and after the second time of listening to them repeat the same information in differently formulated sentences I decided to drink the rest of my cup of tea and get on with the day ahead.

The sad truth is that London is no stranger to terrorism, and while it may have been a few years since the last bomb tore through the city the lessons learned from years of bombings, bloodshed and carnage, have given the city and indeed the country, the ability to apparently take a day like this in their stride.

There was no widespread panic. Eyewitnesses commented on how calmly everyone dealt with the situation. Indeed only in the UK would you expect to read that people actually “queued up to escape” and that volunteers were on scene giving support and cup of tea to the walking wounded.

My friend Darryl summed up the feelings of many of my friends back home. “I think the mood from most people is that London has been through much worse and it’ll mostly be back to normal tomorrow.” He said in an email. “A lost working day maybe, and unlucky for the people who lost their lives, but I don’t think this will make any difference politically.”

It would seem that Darryl was proved right too. London appeared to be back to normal the very next day with people gathering at bars and clubs as they would do on any other Friday night. The stock market remained strong and the public transport system was once more fully operational. And as investigation officers swept the scenes of the four bombs Prime Minister Tony Blair praised the “inner resilience” of Londoners. As sad as the whole event was, it’s business as usual in London.

Traveling today from Portland to San Francisco by air there was a very obvious and visible increase in the amount of armed personnel on the ground to make everyone feel safe no matter how far from the truth that may or may not be. President Bush of course didn’t miss the opportunity to tell us that so called ‘war on terror’ will go on and that ‘we’ will emerge triumphant. It’s an old sound-byte of course, and one that isn’t ever followed by telling us how exactly he plans to rid the world of terrorists and hatred. But he’s a politician and politicians say things like that at times like this.

Being several thousand miles away has only been frustrating in so much as the lack of intelligent news and information. I quickly gave up on TV news who as expected were only interested in sensationalizing the story or concentrating on the human side of things. My email inbox has been filling up with kindly worded emails of good wishes from American friends, and people have been asking me how I feel about what happened in London? Of course I’m grateful for their concern and the show of support. But how do I feel? I feel like this is the price we pay I suppose? I’ve accepted that there will always be a maniac somewhere who will inflict pain and suffering, that’s part of life isn’t it. If we catch the people who planted those bombs will it stop others from at least wanting to do the same again? Of course not! So how do I feel? I suppose I just feel sad that we live in a world where bombings and acts of violence are seen as a means to an end. Sad that it would seem despite all the bloodshed and broken hearts, history can teach us nothing.

Thanks again to all my American friends who said and wrote such nice things by email. I really did appreciate your thoughts.

General and PoliticalThursday, July 7th, 2005, (5:23 am)

Now I appreciate the fact that the local Portland Tribune is only a free newspaper, but surely there are better things to put on the front page than a story about a pair on pants that have been up a tree for three months or more?

It would seem though that such an issue is worthy of a front page slot on the Tribune here in Portland Oregon. The story by Jacob Quinn Sanders ‘investigates’ a pair of jeans that have been up a tree for a number of months. Sanders interviews several people about the pants and draws no shocking conclusions aside the fact that they will probably remain in the tree until such time as they fall out. As local interest stories go, this surely has to be one of the worst ever? Or do you know of a better one?

In a real newspaper the Oregonian reports how President Bush will basically scupper any progress that could be made on environmental issues or aid for Africa at the G8 summit being held in Scotland at the moment. Bush, who has already managed to get his part in the summit off to a bad start by falling of a bicycle, has already ruled out any US backing for ‘Kyoto-style’ deals on climate change saying instead that he would be talking to fellow leaders about new technologies as a way of tackling global warming.

I was also pleased to see Bush come under some intense fire for creating a link between the situation in Iraq and the terrorists who carried out the 9|11 attacks. There has never been a link, something which Bush himself has pointed out on a number of occasions in the past. However as domestic disquiet grows about the war in Iraq that has cost the lives of nearly 2000 American soldiers and many more Iraqis, it would seem Bush needed to find a way to convince America that the vast sums of money being spent on the war that was declared won back in May 2003, was indeed worth those lives. But in linking the insurgents in Iraq to the al-Queda terrorists responsible for the 9|11 attack Bush opened himself up to a serious backlash at home as well as abroad.

The Bush administration continued to put a brave face on a troubling situation in Afghanistan as their installed democratic government continues to struggle with the countries extremely fragile ‘American style’ democracy. The recent death of two American soldiers in Afghanistan hasn’t helped but Bush has little choice but to continue in Americas near single handed effort to bring stability to the country. Added to this earlier this year the head of the United Nations drugs control agency said efforts to tackle Afghanistan’s growing drugs trade were failing. Since the fall of the Taleban production of opium has rocketed giving rise to the worsening violence in the country as people struggle to survive and fight for control of this illegal, socially damaging but lucrative resource.

On a different note I wanted to flag up to those of you out there who enjoy watching good documentaries on TV a movie on PBS called ‘Street fight’ which covers the turbulent campaign of Cory Booker, a 32-year old Rhodes Scholar/Yale Law graduate running for mayor of Newark, N.J. back in 2002 against Sharpe James, the four-term incumbent twice his age. I caught it the other night and was gripped from start to finish, shocked that such a dirty and outright criminal campaign could be conducted in a country that is so proud to be democratic and free. It’s not a republican/democrat thing either. The two candidates covered in the film are both democrat. Seriously, if you get a chance do watch this movie it really was very good if a little shocking. Watching this movie in context with America installing its ‘freedoms’ and ‘democracies’ in Afghanistan and Iraq was, I have to confess, a little depressing.

The brotherhood of the stationary pants
Bush rejects Kyoto-style G8 deal
Bush falls off a bike
Bush slammed for Iraq 9/11 link
Iraq body count
The human face of loss in Iraq
Random link to see if anyone looks at the links I post
Aljazera : Iraq Under Occupation special report
Street Fight : The PBS movie
Cory Booker for Mayor

TravelTuesday, July 5th, 2005, (5:35 am)

What a day! I think that has to go down as my favorite ever 4th of July! Of course most July 4th’s have passed as just another working day for me as we don’t celebrate this holiday in the UK, but of those I have celebrated here in the US, this day would probably have to be the best.

It started with a walk on the beach here at Lincoln City on the Oregon coast (see post below). A coastline that most people imagine to be rugged and rocky. However the Oregon coast is one of America’s jewels if you ask me. On a day like today (a day that was supposed to be showery) you’ll see this coastline at its very best.

After the walk we jumped in the car and headed south along highway 101. Where possible we turned off the highway to take the less trodden route. We took all afternoon to drive the relative short distance to Newport, stopping at some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen, some covered in black volcanic sand.

The weather was just about perfect. Not beating hot and not at all cold. A light breeze kept us cool as the sun shone from a cloudless sky. It really was absolutely perfect.

We eventually stopped at the small fishing town of Newport. Missy said that we had to go to “Mo’s” and try some of their famous clam chowder, so who was I to refuse. Clam chowder isn’t a favorite dish of mine, but ‘when in Rome…’

We took that opportunity to grab an early dinner which was seafood, of course, before heading back along 101 to our hotel. We then had a little chillout time before heading back to the beach for a walk. Being the 4th the tradition here is that everyone and their dog comes to the beach to let off fireworks just as soon as it’s dark to do so, and come about 9:30 that’s exactly what happened.

Fireworks were going off constantly all along the beautiful beach. The sea breeze swept the smoke away but was not strong enough to spoil the fireworks or give us too much of a chill. People were sat around campfires all over the beach as the firecrackers and rockets banged, popped and screamed. It was quite amazing, very reminiscent of my time in India and the Diwali celebrations on the beaches of Kovalam.

The celebrations of America’s 229th year of Independence lasted until nearly midnight. The last few stragglers still letting fireworks off as the people sitting on the beach made way for the Ocean as it crashed its way to shore. All has just now gone quiet just now at just past 12:30, bringing to an end a day I won’t forget in a very very long time.

All of the pictures above were taken by me on the 4th of July

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